What with one thing and another, I got a late start this morning, but finally made it downtown for my walkabout. I started out at The Receiver for breakfast. I had the Beef and Egg on Toast – a slice of thick rye toast, covered in braised beef with carmelized onions and topped with an egg. Accompanied by a latte. It was delicious, and after my rough start this morning, it was instrumental in restoring my good humour.
Charlottetown is a picturesque city with all of its interesting architecture and its claim to fame is being the birthplace of Confederation. There are statues of key players around the city - John A. MacDonald and John Hamilton Grays are two of the ones that I found. But that story comes later, if I am to tell the day in its proper order.
Overall, I'm not finding the people in Charlottetown quite as friendly as other Maritime communities. The retail people and hotel staff have been amazing and friendly, but the walking-down-the-street-and-smile thing doesn't seem as common. I thoroughly enjoyed my day here - just noticed it "feels" different.
I wandered down Victoria Row – a pedestrian street with a run of shops with everything from wool sweaters to the standard tourist fare. Eventually, I found St. Dunstan’s Basilica, which is a very prominent building in Charlottetown. The cathedral and chapel are stunning. While I marvel at the beauty, I also cringe at the excess. I have great difficulty reconciling the excessive grandeur of these cathedrals with the poverty of the majority of its parishioners, and it jades my appreciation. Having said that, it is impossible not to stand in awe of the monumental feat of constructing this beautiful cathedral in an age of very basic technology.
Following the street towards the water, I made it down to the wharf, which is predictably touristy – lots of little shops with local art and tourist stuff. Some really beautiful things, and funny ones too. I have to say the t-shirts in one of the shops tested my “anti-stuff” resolve with their funny sayings. Especially the one that said “Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the “M” is silent…” But I stood firm and did not add to my luggage.
I was also very tempted by the early-1900 style cotton nighties in the Anne of Green Gables store, which has everything Anne, of course. I wanted to get one for Bronwyn and myself, but we agreed that it was a waste, really since neither of us really like long nighties for sleeping anyway. I did not restrain myself so well in the Anne of Green Gables chocolate shop, but I figured that was ok because it was consumable. 😊 As one might imagine, Anne of Green Gables has been rather over-commercialized in PEI, and so there is a lot of kitschy merchandise that did not tempt me at all. Still, I am looking forward to visiting the AoGG sites around the island as I travel. Beginning with the stage show Anne & Gilbert this evening.
Wandering around Charlottetown’s waterfront led me to the Irish settler’s memorial, honouring those who settled here from the various counties of Ireland. It has a beautiful spot on the waterfront and I found Derry on the wheel of counties. After that, I wandered through the grounds of the military armoury. The PEI regimental museum is there as well, but the tours were all guided and I didn’t want to spend an hour going through it so I carried on with my walk. Heading back towards Province House, I found a beautiful memorial fountain the the park, built to honour islanders who have served the community through the armed forces, peace keeping, firefighting and policing.
On to the story of confederation. In the late 1800s, the Maritime provinces discussed uniting. Prince Edward Island was not enthusiastic about this, so the leaders of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia hoped to get them in on the game by hosting a conference in Charlottetown. News of the Charlottetown Conference (as it is now known), got to representatives of the Province of Canada, who hoped to convince the Maritime provinces to create a single union of the British colonies in North America. Confederation with the Province of Canada had also long been discussed in the maritimes, so they were invited as “observers” to the conference. The rest is history, of course, with the Charlottetown Conference resulting in an agreement to pursue confederation of Canada West, Canada East and the Maritimes. While, Prince Edward Island did not immediately join the union until 7 years later, they are still included as being among the fathers of confederation for their role in hosting the Charlottetown Conference.
Province House, where the Charlottetown Conference was held, is still the seat of legislature in Prince Edward Island. It is under construction this summer for repairs and maintenance and so I wasn’t able to go in and wander around. To alleviate this disappointment, the neighbouring Confederation Centre for the Arts has created a replica of the meeting room and has a great, short video presentation on the event.
I also learned that Prince Edward Island was the first Canadian province to implement prohibition in 1901. So every Monday, onlookers would watch as confiscated liquor was poured down the manholes. In front of a warehouse that was used to store liquor for re-export! While the province chose to force its own population to be dry, it was happy to take the revenue for liquor being exported elsewhere. According to the story board, the warehouse regularly held enough liquor to get the whole island hammered. Can you imagine the security required for that?!
Headed back to the hotel about 3:00 p.m. to beat the work traffic out. Traffic here is really kind of nuts. While Maritimers, in general, are not over-fussed about their signal lights, in most other areas, they travel on the annoyingly slow side. I have learned to assume nothing about the other guy until I see them actually do it (for example, turning and changing lanes). In Charlottetown, they all seem to like to drive as fast as they can, and then make split second decisions, suddenly hitting their brakes and turning, or pulling out in front of you like they have suddenly realized they are in the car going somewhere. So, I am giving myself a very healthy space cushion.
Got my laundry done (the site laundromat for guests is a big plus for the Banbridge Inn), and then went to the Anne and Gilbert musical. The show was really fun. At the intermission, a girl approached and asked if I was the woman on the ferry with the motorcycle. I said yes and realized these were the two girls that were riding a 2-seater bicycle all over the place – way crazier than me! 😊 They are from Australia (Bridget and Olivia, I think – I have trouble remembering names unless I write them down right away!). They have spent a good deal of time cycling around Canada. We had a good chat and I hope to hear more from them as they finish their travels here. While returning to my seat, a gentleman approached me and asked if my name was Cindy. I said no and asked if I had a twin. He said when he saw me come in with my helmet in my hand, he would have sworn I was this friend from ages ago that he knew. And so I met Wayne and Joanne from Moncton. We had a quick chit chat too, but had to return to our seats for the show to resume.
So ends another successful day. Time for bed and re-pack tomorrow before continuing my adventure. Thanks for riding along!